A fifth straight victory, the fourth in a row by one goal, wasn't a bad net result for the Washington Capitals Saturday night as they knocked off the goal post and the Los Angeles Kings, 5-4.
"It wasn't pretty, but at least we got two points," said defenseman Darren Veitch, whose idea of a pretty sight was the Washington net jarred from its normal alignment with 11 seconds left.
Veitch had lost the puck to the Kings' Marcel Dionne, who fired it into the off-kilter target. Naturally, it didn't count and after the faceoff that followed, the Capitals skated off the remaining time without incident.
"I came around the net and Rod (Langway) yelled at me to send the puck around the boards," Veitch said. "But I saw Gus (Bengt Gustafsson) up the middle wide open. Just as I turned to pass it to him, a guy hit me on the back and the puck went right to their guy. I didn't know the net was off, but I was really happy to see it. Next time I'll listen to Rod."
It was Langway who pushed the post off its magnetized moorings, with sufficient impetus from the Kings' Tiger Williams that referee Dave Newell did not authorize the mandatory penalty shot for deliberate dislodgement in the last two minutes.
"I was going in to help Veitchie get the puck and Williams cross-checked me from behind," Langway said. "I lost my balance and went into the corner of the net. I knew I took it off. I was just stumbling, trying to protect myself from going into the boards."
Goaltender Al Jensen also knew the net was loose, so he was unconcerned by Dionne's shot.
"I was aware of it, because the guy pushed Rod into me at the same time it went off," said Jensen, who made several difficult saves down the stretch to extend his personal unbeaten streak to nine games.
Like most of the Capitals, Jensen said he was not as sharp as usual. Unlike several others, he did not blame the team's travel arrangements. The Capitals practiced at Mount Vernon Friday afternoon and were scheduled to fly out of Baltimore at 6 p.m., but with a flight delay and luggage confusion, they did not arrive at their hotel here until 1:30 a.m. EST.
"We looked tired," said Coach Bryan Murray. "Several guys were sick (notably Langway and Gaetan Duchesne) and some guys who had been producing for us had an off night."
What saved the Capitals, aside from the dislodged net, was the superb work of the fourth line of Bob Gould, Lou Franceschetti and Ed Kastelic. They finished plus three, Gould scoring two goals and Kastelic making a big play to help Kevin Hatcher score one.
"That line gave us a hell of an effort," Murray said. "They made a lot of physical contact and they made a tremendous contribution over the course of the game."
The Kings, now 2-11-2 at home, came out playing a checking game and, after they had taken an early 1-0 lead on the first of two goals by Len Hachborn, Murray put Gould and company on the ice. Franceschetti leveled defenseman Mark Hardy, who had been behind the net with goalie Darren Eliot, and the puck came free to Gould for an easy score.
After Hachborn's second goal matched a power play score by Dave Christian, Hatcher and Gould made good 14 seconds apart to put Washington ahead to stay.
Kastelic's check on Lyle Phair prevented the Kings from clearing the zone and Hatcher, after stopping the puck at the blueline, beat Eliot with a long backhander. Then Gould picked off an Anders Hakansson pass and scored to make it 4-2.
Williams quickly closed the gap, but a drive by Scott Stevens deflected off Craig Laughlin to make it 5-3 before the second period ended. The Kings' Bernie Nicholls scored his 14th goal with 5:05 left in regulation. Penguins 5, Rangers 2
Pittsburgh's Mario Lemieux had a goal and three assists in New York. Sabres 6, Nordiques 2
Lindy Ruff scored four goals as Buffalo won at home. Blues 3, Devils 2
Rob Ramage scored a 50-foot power-play goal with one second left to give visiting St. Louis the come-from-behind victory. Oilers 5, Canucks 3
Defenseman Charlie Huddy doubled his goal output for the season by scoring twice as Edmonton won at home. Jets 3, Maple Leafs 3
Scott Arniel scored with 12 minutes left in the third period, enabling Winnipeg to gain the tie at home. Black Hawks 6, Red Wings 4
Defenseman Doug Wilson broke a 4-4 tie with 2:25 left and center Denis Savard scored his third goal of the night 12 seconds later to lift Chicago at home.